Thursday, 13 August 2015

Growing for her

Nature has a way of finding its feet, making the best of every petal, every vein inside each leaf. It knows its space, knows the potential of its boundary, what it can climb to. It knows its colour. It knows when to fade. It knows what is good, its inherent beauty.

Above my head hundreds of swallows float like torn paper suspended on mobiles. On the ground, in the borders, the cat mint is wild, precocious, growing however and wherever it pleases while the lavender stands tall and sober, royal guard in purple bearskin caps. White petunias wrestle in terracotta pots around the garden perimeter like satellite dishes transmitting scent to those creatures that hover and buzz or in the early evening light, beacons, flares sent from sinking ships. And the vine. It creeps curious over and through the trellis like a child discovering a new den.

Nature. It knows how to grow, how to respond.  

I'm trying to do the same, to do the best in the long term. For her.

I tried. I did. Every Sunday evening I cut the pills into halves and quarters, a lowered dosage for the coming week, their powdery residue on the duvet, on top of the drawers, but the hormones continued to yank my chain, make life difficult, the weed that persisted and wouldn't go away. At first, it felt good. I felt calm, cleared, the quality and depth of sleep improved, my senses sharpened on the school run, listening to her stories about so-and-so who'd received a continuous charge of red cards and made to sit on the thinking spot nine times that day. Really? Blimey...

It was short-lived, though. I became tired, nay exhausted, the days long and indiscriminate. Was I coming down with something? Limbs soaked in chronic fatigue? It was a struggle to wash the clothes, make the bed, roll out the yoga mat and force myself into a downward dog. This wasn't right. And I let her watch more TV, boiled up pasta again, forgetting her homework until it was too late. And then the belligerent mood swings, the impossible PMS, and the blood that came in shortened cycles of twenty-one days or less.

The doctor said, 'I have lots of patients who've been on anti-depressants for a long time - go back to your usual dose and try again in six months time.' I said this wasn't to do with depression anymore, I'm not depressed, it was my hormones, the pills masking an over-flow of perimenopausal symptoms. 'Oh,' she said, 'how old are you, and are you still menstruating?' I'm forty-four, and yes, I am. 'Well you're not menopausal then - we don't really have a name for the lead up to the menopause.' Yes you do, I thought, it's called the perimenopause - Google it. And to think this female GP was also embedded in her middling years - didn't she know anything about this stuff? 'Really, you'll be fine on the pills,' she continued to reassure.

I've been taking them for three years. For the post-birth trauma, for the resulting post-natal illness. Now it would seem I'm swallowing back the tablets for the rest of my forties and early fifties, but I've thought about it, and I don't mind, not as resigned as I thought I might be. By comparison these pills are the champagne alternative to living as a foul-tempered harpy, to enduring debilitating PMS, to battling through the best years of my life through hormonal adversity - just look how brave I am. Why put myself through any of this? I don't want to wear the medal of martyrdom.

If a plant is dying, you feed it water or show its face to the sun. Perhaps you place protective netting over its withering leaves or tie firm bamboo to it's stem. You give nature what it needs to flourish, to grow wild like the cat mint in the borders. These little white pills are my sun and water and fertile soil. Maybe not for long, but for the time they'll do. I need me at my best, my daughter needs me at my best, or good enough, as life intended. I look out again at my garden. The bright white petunias. The dance of a butterfly's shadow. The unhindered vine that curls and secures itself. The lavender that barks its orders at the bees. Nature needs her props or she wouldn't exist. And so too, I need mine.    
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